I think, like many others, I was struck at how reality resembled
unreality. The photograph of an airplane fly into the World Trade
Center seemed unreal, as though it couldn't be reality. I have it
in my head the image of the figures of people as they leaped from
the building, [in] particular, I thought the most startling image
[was] of the man who had folded his arms across his chest and appeared
to be in a kind of ballet-like pose as he almost pirouetted to earth.
That's an image that's unforgettable for me.
I [have] found myself sort of in an odd posturein the posture
of watching the symbols of patriotism, and the language of patriotism
everywhere, and being glad to see that. At the same time, sort of
standing away from it, and thinking about the Muslims I knew from
Malaysia, the good friends that I had met there. My sort of carefully-acquired
little bits of knowledge about the religions of the world and the
places of the world that were in the news. I'm thinking about those
little bits of knowledge and [find myself] standing outside the
events in our country, and [I am] trying to make some sense of that
been in a meeting over in Iowa City, and driving home, I was struck
by the beauty again of the Iowa landscape, which is so serene, so
unblemished. And I was hearing on my car radio the latest report
of bombing in Afghanistan. I couldn't help but think to myself,
we don't really know what we're doing. We don't have any way of
understanding what this is. Here [we are in a ] land that has never
been bombed, not to mention being bombed over and over and over
again. I wanted to do something to sharpen that contrast. So I came
home and took an old painting and laid over it, a graphite drawing.
And on the right, is that sort of serene, cultivated, almost manicured
land that is part of what Iowa is. And then on the other side, I
drew a bombed landscape. That's one example of trying to make visual
some things that I find difficult and in some ways a little frightening
to articulate. Because to part of my head, that sounds very unpatriotic.
To the other part of my intellect, I know it's true.
think America is great because it is a democratic country. Democracy,
in my opinion, is the greatest idea that human beings have ever
had about how they should govern themselves. But it rests on the
idea that the people are an informed electoratethat they find
out about that government and that they are active participants
in it. When democracy doesn't work, it is because the electorate
is lazy, or uninformed.
we have had, prior to September 11th, and continue to have, some
real challenges in making democracy an effective instrument. Our
[democratic] country is larger; it is certainly more diverse. That
doesn't mean that it is any less of a valid idea. It means that
it is more challenging, I think, but more of a valid idea.
I believe making art has to do with revealing something of yourself,
not with imitating what is popular or in the marketplace. I think
each self is important and unique and different, and it takes a
lifetime for an artist to discover what is in themselves that can
be visually communicated. I think there's far too much willingness
to be imitative, and not enough encouragement of saying to young
people, Who you are is a wonderful and beautiful and unique personlet
your art express that. Be yourself, because that's plenty good enough!